New Undergraduate Public Health Degree

School of Nursing and Health Studies program addresses growing workforce demand

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators unanimously approved a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies. The school hopes to admit new students into the major, which focuses on urban public health, for the fall 2017 semester.

“Public health research and teaching has been a strength of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies. The development of this formal degree program was a natural and efficacious way to capitalize on the strengths of our faculty and staff who are actively involved in projects that protect the health of the public on the national, state and local levels,” said Ann Cary, dean of the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies.

With the addition of the new public health degree, UMKC now hosts three undergraduate degrees at the School of Nursing and Health Studies including Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Health Sciences.

The need for the new degree can be seen in the workforce. Employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy habits and behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.

“We are excited about the opportunity to provide a public health degree program to meet the demand for a growing, diverse public health workforce,” said Jamie Hunt, teaching assistant professor and program director for public health and health sciences. “This program complements the existing Bachelor of Health Sciences degree and will prepare outstanding health professionals to succeed in public health’s ultimate goal of promoting population health, preventing disease, improving health outcomes and quality of life, and ensuring access to healthy communities through evidence-based solutions.”

The new public health degree and major builds on the minor in public health now offered in the health science program. Courses for the new public health degree can be organized into a minor in public health for students from other majors as well, including criminal justice, social work, urban planning, public policy, civil engineering, business, psychology, basic sciences, dental hygiene, nursing, biology and pre-professional programs.

The new public health degree advances UMKC’s strategic plan goal to excel in the life sciences; and addresses community and workforce needs for more health professions practitioners.

“The outpouring of support for the new degree was a testament to the program by our community partners,” Cary said. “The faculty, administrative and community architects of the program are to be commended for their diligence in design and creativity in delivery. Due to a number of courses being available online, our current public health workforce will be able to seek their professional development in this program without having to leave their employment.”

The next step in the approval process for the public-health degree is approval from the coordinating board at the Missouri Department of Higher Education, pending this spring.